Photo: borrowed from the Cyclowns' website. The circus in full action. Behind, the police afraid of happiness without barcodes.
“Joining a circus is something that everyone should do, at least once in a life time” – my old friend Matias had said when I confessed my plans of joining the Cyclown Circus. Chiang Mai was the place where I would begin that transition, from travelling alone to becoming part of a caravan of exiles. In my mind, the first obstacle on the way was that poetry seemd to me something to implicit and elaborated to include in a circus show. Words are spells. They evoke, but never have the same weight of a juggling number. They require more concentration than relaxation, and so on.
Presenting poetry to the same audience was going to require some adjustment to the kind of staff I was writing at the moment.
But I had only arrived to Chiang Mai. With the backpack still on I was looking for the circus on the streets. It is actually just too easy to find them. When you see a pack of people fighting to see something, that’s them. Chiang Mai was, to my eyes, the most touristy place I had found on my way until then (I hadn’t reached Bangkok yet). With the time, though, I think we even started to like Chiang Mai. For street artists like us, it was actually a good place to earn fast money, plus the steady stream of travellers makes for a good spot to meet people. The mmeting with the rest of the circus took place in Tha Pae gate, where very evening at 8 pm the Cyclowns were doing their show. I had last seen them in October 2005 in Turkey. There it was Johnnie, the Bass player from Minneapolis, Shanty throwing and catching a constellation of ping pong balls with his mouth (!), Raffi, violin player, and Jannine, who was at the time working on some magic tricks. They were staying in the Canvas Café, where the landlady was a painter who was happy to offer them the place for free, for a while. “But now that while is kind of over, that’s always the problem with us, the while is soon over”. – explains Johnnie as he hits the thick strings of his bass. In order not to complicate the situation further, I decided to be a paying guest in the Canvas Café. We would stay there longer than planned, and the are near Tha Pae Gate would become and arena to parade our picturesque marginality, an arena where to meet other travellers attracted by the mutant tall bikes, by Johnnie’s bass and Raffi’s punkie violin…